Last night, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics played a game with the knowledge that one of their respective teammates wouldn’t be there anymore. Players often remind us that the NBA “is a business”, but even with that in mind, NBA players are still people. When personalities as bright and fun as Ronnie Turiaf and Corey Brewer permanently exit your locker room, you’re going to think about it when you’re playing, at least right away.
Oh, right, the Celtics lost a pretty good guy, too. On top of that, the pieces they got in return weren’t yet available to play, so they had to roll with a sans-Rajon Rondo lineup, something they’re fairly familiar with. To the Celtics’ credit, they played as though nothing had changed, and didn’t seem as though the loss of Rondo was going to haunt them in any way on a personal level.
Saying the loss of Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf caused the Timberwolves to lose last night’s game would be silly. The Celtics won by killing the Timberwolves inside, capitalizing on second-chance points, and hitting the wide open (often corner) 3-pointers the Wolves would freely give them. Andrew Wiggins had one of his worst games so his young career, and Thad Young’s struggles continued.
So no, it’s fair to say the Wolves lost this game all by themselves. But it’s hard for me to imagine that the news of the Brewer/Turiaf trade didn’t have an effect on the team psyche, at least a little bit. Seeing the way both guys carried themselves in the locker room, the conversations they’d start, the jokes they’d crack; they kept the locker room loose, no matter how bad the score may have ended up on a particular night.
To be fair, a few Wolves didn’t seem phased by the trade, both of whom may actually have directly benefited from it. Shabazz Muhammad kept up his scoring binge, having his best all-around game with a 25-5-5 line. He played the fast break very well, and made some nice passes in situations I was positive he’d try to force a shot inside. Also, Chase Budinger seemed to wake up, at least temporarily. He had his first positive output of the season, finally playing like he did back in the preseason/training camp, shooting 8/12 for 19 points.
Past that, it was tough to find anything good from tonight. Against a rebuilding team like Boston, the Wolves should play better. They didn’t do that. It was for a long list of reasons, and losing Brewer and Turiaf was probably one of them. But it’s still a basketball game, and they’re still professional basketball players.
They’ll have another chance to get back in the win column on Sunday against the Indiana Pacers. While Corey and Ronny will still be on their minds, these guys have seen trades happen before, and should be able to move on quickly. It’s fair to point at a trade for some shaky play the game of the deal. After that, it’s all basketball.